From Riches to Reliance

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This is a guest post supplied by my precious sister, Kelsey Gunderson. Any questions will be directed to her and she will reply as quickly as possible.

Kelsey Gunderson is a wife and mother of two living in the Dallas, Texas area. Hesitant to consider herself a writer, she shares from a vulnerable place of obedience to the God who loves and leads her.

Budgets. Whether spreadsheets, cash envelopes, budget programs, or monthly allowance methods, we all try to obtain (or say we do) some kind of budget—some kind of organization for the few dollars that pass through our hands that supply our families with everything from toilet paper to tools, from groceries to gifts. But what happens when you don’t have enough income to budget, when budgeting no longer makes sense? When you don’t have the extra 5% to put into an emergency fund, or 10% into savings, or when you don’t have enough to purchase the bonus-size box of diapers even though it really is a better deal? Well, that’s is exactly where my husband and I have found ourselves the last 16 months.

The change was abrupt, which by no means was an accident. When God wants your attention you can be sure He knows how to rock your world and bring you to your knees in an instant. My husband had been gainfully employed by the same company for 4 years and had already been able to obtain a promotion that most thought was out of his league. The pay was great, the hours were good, and our little family of 3 ticked right along quite self sufficiently. Which, on a side note, I believe is the where the problem started. God doesn’t intend for us to live out our lives “self sufficient” with little reliance on him. He wants us to not only need Him but to want Him as well. In March of 2013 we had a huge wake-up when my husband, through a sequence of unfortunate events, lost his job. If that wasn’t enough to get our attention God also decided to expand our family. One month to the day of him losing his job, I found out I was pregnant with our second little miracle. By “miracle” I mean just that, I had been told on multiple occasions that a second baby wasn’t in our future, but nothing is impossible with our God. He will go to great measures to bring His children to him.

With my husband looking for a new job that would support our family and allow me to stay home with our not only one child but second that was rapidly headed to her debut, the walls seem to slowly start closing in. Fear and anxiety seem to be the only emotions I knew. I had never had to face financial instability quite like this before and at first it was down right terrifying. The smile covering up the panic wasn’t going to cover for long, but God will never give us more that we can handle and He always provides (1 Corinthians 10:13). It is’t until we reach a complete state of instability and uncertainty that we truly began to see God’s active hand in our lives. Over the course of the next several months, we saw God’s hand in so many undeniable ways, anonymous gifts, HSA contributions that shouldn’t have been, mortgage refunds, guilt free/unprompted family assistance, and tax reimbursements that came just in time.

My husband was able to land a local contracting job several weeks after being let go from his job. The contracting job was an answer to our prayers, but was hardly the end our journey. Contracting jobs by nature are flakey (at best) providing a paycheck but nothing more and very little promise of continued employment. So the search continued, and still continues to this day. We have had our hopes rise with phone calls, interviews and follow-ups only to drop with a rejection, job “fall-throughs”, and no callbacks. We’ve seen financial stability on the horizon only to have a storm blow in.

I’m not going to lie and say that it’s easy to trust God when what you need is something real and tangible and it feels like God is anything but tangible; however, I can tell you that this last year has been a year that I would never change. God has brought me to my knees worldly speaking but at the same time has picked me up and placed me in His lap. I have never felt that peace and confidence in Christ that I have felt this past year. Handing over finances to God is one the hardest, yet most rewarding, things we have ever done.

The past year plus has been hard, financially wearing, mentally exhausting and emotionally taxing. It has stretched our finances, our marriage, and our trust, but I wouldn’t change any of it. The thrill of seeing God at work and knowing it’s for the best out weighs everything. I even said at one point that even though I long so much for financial stability again I have also learned to love the instability because it allows me to see the active hand of God. As I look back on the past 16 months and remember the up and downs, the tight weeks and financial gifts that made things possible I realize that this whole situation never was about money or employment, it was about trusting God to provide. Every tight week feels worse than the last, but ever gift is sweeter. I have learned through these gifts that it’s not a coincidence or an obligation on someone else to help us; it’s the hand of God at work. Working through someone else to make sure he provides for his children. I often thought back to the Israelites and their escape from Egypt and how many times they doubted that God would provide, how each situation felt worse than the last, and how they missed out on beauty of trusting God. I don’t want miss out! Even this very day I look at our bank account and wonder how we will make it to the next paycheck and if I will be able to buy diapers before we run out; the problem may still there, but the fear is slowly diminishing. Fear is being replaced by fascination; the fascination of what God will do next.

 

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In Your Light, I’m Glowing

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untitled-1430946-mMalachi 4:2 “”But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture.”

I was about twelve years old. The neighbors had asked me to feed their pets while they were on vacation. Eager for an extra few dollars to call my own, I agreed and stubbornly refused the help of my sisters or parents. The neighbors’ house was only one door down from ours; we lived in the country without the felt threats of boogymen or busy streets. They had a young German shepherd, a gerbil and two fish—pretty easy.

One night, I put off making my evening visit to let the dog out and turn on the porch light until the sun had set. Undaunted, I pulled on boots under my nightgown and traipsed across the lawn. I finished the chores quickly, turned the key to the right and headed home. Goodness, it was dark.

We lived several miles outside a small, Oklahoma town. There were no street lights to cast guiding halos, only a stray firefly. For some reason, it hadn’t seemed this dark only 20 minutes earlier. Taking a deep breath, I struck out.

It wasn’t the dark itself that scared me. My nemesis was a 12-inch high, brick planter that ringed the solo tree in our backyard. My shins tingled. Just recently we’d studied the eye in science class. I knew the planter was real, but without the sunlight to bounce its revealing rays off the surface of those fierce bricks, it might as well have been imaginary to me—unless I struck it with my shin.

I held my hand up in front of my face. With pupils gaping, just enough moonlight filtered through to reflect the shape of my fingers. But that cursed planter loomed invisible, transparent in the night. Waiting.

I considered turning around to borrow the neighbors’ flashlight. No, if I simply hurried, pressed on quickly toward my goal, I’d soon find myself safe in the welcoming glow of our kitchen.

Crack! Pain sliced through my shin. In my haste, I hit the planter with force. Tears sprang to my eyes and a whimper escaped my lips.

It may seem a stretch, but my long years in recovery from anorexia remind me of that night. Mired in addiction to food restriction and compulsive exercise, I felt only half-human. Conversations were a loss on me, as I stood face-to-face with a friend and their words seemed to slip right through me—transparent. I couldn’t see my physical self with objectivity. No light filtered through my mind to illumine the damage I was doing to my body. So I pressed on.

Fear gripped me. Counselors, friends and family who stood but a short distance away, safe in the light of truth, saw me clearly. They urged me to seek the light. They struggled to explain the dangers ahead. But I only hurried faster. In my blindness, something told me that if I just worked out harder, ate less, stayed in control, sooner or later I would come out on the other side. Sooner or later, everyone would realize that I had been right all along—I was stronger, wiser, in control, enviable.

But I was scared too. I couldn’t see myself. I couldn’t rightly govern myself. I couldn’t change my behavior and doing things my way wasn’t working. In a downward spiral, I became more and more miserable. All I could see was this tiny section of my life—food, thinness, exercise. The rest of me disappeared—no light. I failed to see the full spectrum of my life; confined only to this addiction.

I was about 30 years old. After nearly fifteen years of blindness, light spilled through my atrophied retinas. Turning my face to the light of Jesus Christ, glory erupted on my vision. Now in health, the full spectrum of light reflects off of my body, soul and spirit. In Him, I see who I am and have been able to address the true physical needs of my body, feed the actual hunger of my heart and the experience the richness of real relationships.

You see, for so long I searched for the end point. I longed for relief from my eating disorder, but couldn’t see the direction, could not navigate the perils before me, could not understand the truth of my body’s needs. But when I began to seek not the destination, but the light of Jesus Christ, everything became clear.

All of the things I feared between me and the life of freedom and purpose I longed for, were suddenly easily seen. The truth about my own beauty became evident; the reason for my unique and precious life was no longer a distant hope but a biblical promise.

I mourn the lost years sometimes. “Real-me” needn’t have been shrouded and transparent for so long. The Bible, my companion from youth, tells over and over that Jesus is the light that makes our lives, my own life, real, visible and tangible. It cannot be seen, embraced or experienced fully without the light of Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 5:14 “This is why it is said: ‘Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

Psalm 36:9 “For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.”

Given Everything

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Romans 8:32
“He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?”

I just returned from a two week trip to visit my parents and help them move. While I was there, Dad asked me to participate in a phone call with his investment advisor and estate consultant. He and my mom extracted seventeen years worth of memories and not-so-memorable things that my sisters and I had collected in their basement, and then abandoned when we married and moved away. I helped them haul literally hundreds of pounds of “stuff” to the donation center. It was an all-inclusive attempt to take inventory of what they had, who wanted it “someday” and what isn’t worth anything anymore.

In the basement, I sat cross-legged with my mother emptying trunks of baby clothes, hand-made blankets and old Yahtzee games. Carefully, I selected the one dress I remember her sewing for me when I was about two. I chose two baby blankets and a stack of old letters that had been sent to me when I was sick for an extended period of time. Across the room, one of my sisters struggled to contain her tears; her sentimentality offended at the loss of anything sacred—even if that be an old church bulletin with doodles done during a boring sermon.

My parents are almost 60, and a move like this necessarily conjures the conversation of who will inherit what when they pass away. I know I want my mother’s ring with all her children’s birthstones. They have two paintings that I’d like to have. Other things my sisters want for their homes.

Romans 8 explains the full beauty of our relationship to God as Father, and our position as His heirs by virtue of our adoption through Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 1:13-14 says, “When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.”

Though our point of reference as an heir is our familial relationships, there is an important difference between what we experience on earth and the kind of inheritance we receive from our Heavenly Father.

My sisters and I are making choices, planning to divide my parents’ estate. We will have to take somethings and relinquish others. But the Bible says that in Christ, God gives us all things, and that every good and perfect gift is from above. And in the the Old Testament we are told that “no good thing does He withhold from those whose walk is blameless.” [emphasis added]

As if it were not enough to receive salvation and forgiveness of our sins, God has adopted us—made us His children—and given each one of us full share in His inheritance.

Jesus, I pray that you will open the eyes of our hearts, enlighten us in order that we may know the hope to which you have called us and the riches of our glorious inheritance through Christ.

 First posted on http://www.servantsisters.org.

An Interview With Megan Cyrulewski

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Happy Friday, Friends! I have a special treat for you today, an Meganinterview with the indomitable Megan Cyrulewski. I say indomitable and mean it in every sense of the word. She recently posted the first chapter of her book, Who Am I, on her blog. When you read it,  you’ll get it :)

I confess, I’ve conned Megan into sharing an advanced copy of her book with me when they’re available, so I’ll review that for you here, too. After slowly reading the delicious first chapter, I’m pining to know the rest of the story.

But for now, without further adieu,

What is your name? And while we’re on the subject, do you have any nicknames and where did they come from?
Megan Cyrulewski.  Friends call me Meg.  My dad calls me Meggie, which was my childhood nickname.  Only my dad can get away with calling me that!

In your book’s teaser, you mention your daughter. How old is she and what’s her name? How did you choose her name?
Madelyne Rose was born on 12/2/10 so she is a little bit more than 3-years-old.  Her name comes from two different places:  Madelyne from the book (and mini-series) North and South and Rose was my grandmother’s name.  She passed away in 2006.

Your other “baby” must be this new book we can’t wait to read. What is the title and how did you come up with it?
My new book is a memoir called, Who Am I?  I came up with the title because in the middle of this traumatic period in my life, one day my dad called me Meggie.  I remember thinking to myself, I’m not Meggie anymore.  Who am I?  

I know your book is your memoir, what convinced you to write your story? What sets your story apart from other life-stories?
I love reading about adversity and the courage people have to rise above.  I was inspired by the book Her by Christina Parravani (who is actually a FB friend now…it’s totally a celebrity moment for me!)  Her words were just so poetic and harsh at the same time.  It’s as though I could feel Christina’s pain reaching out of the pages.  I thought that if I could write my own story half as good as she wrote hers, I hope to inspire people too.

I think what makes my story so different is that there was just so much going on in my life in a 2-year span:  a new baby, divorce, postpartum depression, hospital stays, child custody battle, domestic violence, and much more all while I was in Law School.  To this day, I’m really not sure how I managed to survive that time period.

Is there a message or moral that you want your readers to take away?
There are two very important messages I want to get across:  First, domestic violence is not just physical.  It comes in all forms.  There was some physical violence in my marriage (and after) but my ex-husband emotionally abused me, which is just as bad as physical violence.  To be told over and over again that I am fat, lazy, ugly, a joke, etc. made me feel suicidal because if the person I love feels this way about me, then others must think the same thing.  It took a lot of therapy to help me realize that I am worthy again.  Second, postpartum depression is not about wanting to hurt your kids.  (i.e. Andrea Yates.)  That is a stereotype that I am very passionate about changing.  I felt that I wasn’t a good enough mother for my child and therefore, I wanted to kill myself because I felt that my daughter deserved better than me.  It is an awful feeling.  

What was your writing process? Did you outline your book first or just let it develop as you went? Did the book turn out as you expect it or take on a life of its own?
My wonderful brilliant attorney (who is like a second father to me) advised me to keep a log of everything my ex-husband did right after I filed for divorce.  So when I was ready to write my book two years later, I sort of had an outline already.  

There are parts of the book that were extremely hard to write.  I didn’t like reliving some of the events that had happened.  Those were the days I had to walk away from the computer.  While I was writing the book, I was finally able to write my thoughts down on paper.  There were a lot of times I wanted to say something to my ex-husband and his new wife, but I couldn’t.  Now, I can…and I did.

What was the editing process like?
I have to admit that I am not as good at grammar as I thought!  My book has gone through the first round of edits and it amazed me at how many grammar mistakes I had made.  Thank God for editors!  Authors can’t live without them!

How did you find your publisher, Black Opal Books?
To find an agent or a publisher is extremely tough.  It is a very subjective industry so if you don’t have thick skin, you aren’t going to make it.  I sent out tons of queries and got back 33 rejections before Black Opal Books offered me a contract.  I will forever be grateful that they took a chance on me and my story.  They are a wonderful publishing company and all of us BOB authors feel more like family than clients.  

Do you have any more books “in the works”?
I am working on my first book of fiction, a legal thriller.  (Think John Grisham.)  I have to use that law degree for something, right?!  I’ve only told the plot to one person and the moment her jaw dropped and she gasped at the big “twist,” I knew I had a good story.  Now all I have to do is add more hours to the day so I can finish writing it!

What hobbies do you have or what things do you do when you’re not writing or working?
Most of my free time is spent with Madelyne.  It’s been rough this winter because of the polar vortex here in Michigan.  Right now Madelyne takes dance and gymnastics classes.  But as soon as it starts to get warm, we love being outside.  I take her to the zoo almost every Sunday in the summer.  There is nothing I love more in this world than being with Madelyne.  My second most favorite thing is my girl’s nights!  I have to have non-mommy time and hang with my girls!  (And by hang, I mean put on some yoga pants, head over to someone’s house, drink some wine and eat some chocolate.  Party on.)

And Just a Few Fun Ones:

Coffee or Tea – COFFEE!!!  Must have coffee every morning!

Night owl or early mornings?
Night owl for sure.  But Madelyne is a morning person, so I really don’t remember the last time I’ve slept past 6:30 AM.

Dogs or cats?
Cats.  At one point, my ex and I had 5 cats.  Now I have 3.

Sweet or salty?
Salty.  I’m addicted to chips.

Beach or Mountains?
Beach!  I’ve been to Hawaii twice and want to go back.  Bora Bora is on my bucket list.  I just need someone to go with me!  Any single men reading this??  ;)

Thank you, Megan Cyruleski, for visiting Predatory Lies today. I truly am pining to read your book! And I’m grateful for the time you took to interview me as well. Your passion to support other authors makes you one-of-a-kind and a treasure!

A Conversation with New Author, Heather Letto

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Dear Friends,

You’re in for a treat today! Author Heather Letto, is a new friend of mine. We are both represented by the phenomenal, intuitive, Christian agent, Vanessa Grossett. The first book in Heather’s new Impervious series, Lone Wolf, will debut on shelves in May 2014. Today, my lucky readers get an inside look into Heather Letto – the writer.

Please, introduce yourself beneath this post, visit Heather’s website, ask her questions, and by all means, mark your calendars for May so you can be one of the first to get your hands on her book!

Welcome Heather!

You wrote a piece titled “Dream On” on your blog. Tell me about your dreams as a little girl, besides wanting to be a princess. :) Did some of those dreams influence the character development or settings in your stories?

As a little girl, I played ‘pretend’ like nobody’s business, taking my characters to the N-th degree. I was a girl IN the 70’s so when I put on a record, I was Cher. I didn’t play house, I was Fonzi’s wife. While doing flips and cartwheels in my front yard, I was Nadia Comanci. In other words, when I hung out, I weaved myself right into a story. As you can imagine, to date each female protagonist who I’ve created tends to be a quirky, fierce girl who thinks she can take on the world.

When did you start writing or telling stories? Is it something you have always enjoyed doing?

I’ve always been a tale teller. However, my quirkiness didn’t find its proper place on a page until my mid-30’s. Life was a little rough at that time and that’s when I discovered my ability to take ridiculous or tedious moments and cloak then with humor. As I re-created what originally was a headache or heartache I was able to see the silver linings on many a gray clouds.

What motivates you to write? Do you go outside to straighten your thoughts and get inspiration or listen to music or free write? What works for you?

My true inspiration is God, plain and simple. A lot of prayer goes into my writing and I truly feel that when I create, the Holy Spirit is my driving force. I find him in the gym as a pray during a workout, on a nature stroll or even just sitting at my kitchen table.  It doesn’t matter… whenever I call upon Him, He shows up.

Who are your favorite authors or favorite books? Do you read any specific genres most?

I’m a die-hard fan of YA. Veronica Roth, Suzanne Collins and Lauren Oliver are my current A-listers. However, they have to battle with Beth Moore and Pricilla Shirer for my attention. And my favorite up and coming author–Nicole Quigley. (Like Moonlight at Low Tide…a work of art!)

Did you discover or learn anything while writing your book? Something about yourself or your own experiences or even about God?

Oh, always! God is constantly teaching me and pulling me deeper into my faith as I work.

Tell me a little about your family.

I am a blessed, blessed woman! I’m the proud mother of two God-fearing and very successful young men who are just starting to get their paws wet in this wonderful world. I am the wife of an amazingly supportive and fabulously successful software designer husband. I originally was sprung from a very quirky and loving home with a crazy mom & dad, sister & brother who helped form me into the weirdo I am today. P.S.  I love  my cats.

What do you like to do when you are not writing?

Because I taught fitness for 20+ years, I have a hard time sitting still. I totally enjoy a hard gym workout, a hike in the woods, a long bike ride, a refreshing swim, paddling a kayak or a few hours on the tennis court. Oh… my newest obsessions is figure skating… and one day I’m gonna be good!  :D

“Surviving the Predatory Lies of Anorexia” is HERE

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my book

It’s the holidays, brutal times for any family plagued by an eating disorder. This book will be an encouraging and enlightening read for anyone seeking understanding of this disorder and light at the end of the tunnel.

Click through to view it on Amazon. Below are a number of other ebook formats where you can purchase it.

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/389934

Because He Lives, Generational Blessings

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In the late 1960s, Gloria and Bill Gaither wondered if it was irresponsible to bring new life into the world. Newspaper headlines dripped with despair. The Vietnam War raged and by the end of 1968, over 22,000 American soldiers had died. John F. Kennedy was assassinated that same year, the cost of living rose. Rock and roll music was gaining popularity, eclipsing the wholesome songs of their youth. “Love” and “peace” were being paraded through the streets on rainbow-colored banners and in hazy smoke circles, irrespective of their true source. Peace was expected to follow, “whatever makes you happy”.

A little over a decade later, my own mother fretted about the wisdom of starting a family as morality seemed to decline and the world seemed headed to hell in a hand basket. Did God really mean to bear with His creation much longer? It seemed as though the days of Noah, when “all the thoughts of mens’ hearts was always evil continually”, were replaying on an erie global screen.

In March 1980, the month of my birth year, stories of riots, murders and natural disasters landed in the driveway with every thump of the daily paper. American politics grew steadily more liberal beneath the Carter administration. God was systematically evicted from public education.

Fast forward a little more than 30 years…

On a sunny, delicious day in Dallas, TX, three generations of my family crowded around a circular table in my sister’s kitchen. Rays of warmth poured through open windows and drew geometric patterns across the crumbs of our bagel breakfast; a light breeze stirred the ribbons of steam rising from mix-matched coffee cups.

“Why do I deserve to be here?” the thought was half prayer and joined my heart’s whispers of thankfulness to heaven. Why, in the midst of a crumbling economy, school shootings, talk of death panels, government shut downs, broken homes, starving countries, racism and deception, am I allowed to bask here in the love of family, the promise of life, the comfort of fellowship and full bellies?

Across the table, I saw my dad’s eyes shimmer. They always do that when he’s thrilled to bursting with the blessings of our High King. Next to him, my mother cradled her newest grandchild, gulping air into tiny lungs less than a month exposed to oxygen outside his mother’s womb. Each of my three sisters pushed back from the table, one teetering on the back legs of her chair just as we were warned not to do as little girls. “Baby Hay”, so nicknamed by the squirming toddler in my lap rested quietly on the floor nearby. And I leaned forward to press my cheek to the soft pigtails of my niece. At her behest, I sang, Jesus Loves Me, to her, “again”, hushed so as not to interrupt the ebb and flow of conversation, like a peaceful tide unchecked by second thoughts.

Daddy pulled an envelope from his lap under the table and reached across, placing it in my hands. Mom produced a large shoebox at the same time.

“These are for you,” she said.

I must have looked surprised. None of their new or expected grandchildren were mine, so there was no occasion to shower me with gifts. Christmas was fast approaching, but none of us were ready to admit that, let alone begin shopping for gifts. My birthday had come and gone this year.

“You’ll understand when you open it,” Dad said.

I peeled the paper from the box and lifted the lid. Folded back and forth upon itself lay a blue and white, latch hook banner. Immediately, I remembered it. Now my own eyes shimmered, and I pulled it out, stretching it to the full length.

“Because He Lives”.

About a year ago, I began signing most of my letters and emails with that closing phrase. I did it mostly because “Sincerely”, “In Him”, “Love”, “Yours Truly” and “Blessings”, seemed over done. But I had no idea why this particular line came to me, or why it filled me with pure pleasure to place my name beneath the assurance. “Because He Lives”. It just seemed so…me.

As my parents’ first born, the latch hook banner once hung in my nursery. I claimed it as my own, even though it hung in each subsequent nursery as my sisters arrived. But as an adult, I accepted the fact that it would most likely hang in one of my sisters’ nurseries. Without children of my own, I hardly expected to be given the handmade treasure.

“Open the envelope.” My mom gestured.

Still wordless, I placed the banner in my lap and began to read.

“The lyrics to this song have held true, are true and will continue to hold true. As you have heard many times before, God placed this song on my heart when I was fearful of ever having a family. He showed himself faithful time and time again in raising our family. He took two broken people who love Him and brought four beautiful girls into the world. And now through His faithfulness He has started four more wonderful families. Families that He will continue to do His work in, “because He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it…”.

Suddenly, I knew why God had given me this precious phrase, “Because He Lives”. Every generation has grown up in the darkness of their own age, in the particular ills that beset those years. Personally, I was accosted by the worldly demands to have a perfect body, be self-sufficient, brutally self-disciplined and in control. I fell beneath the blows of an eating disorder and many nights I wondered if God would simply relieve my pain through death. He refused.

After each wave of fierce battle, as I lay panting and still stubbornly broken by sin, Father God breathed hope into my spirit. My journal is replete with the question, “What makes life worth living for those who do not know Jesus?”

For 15 years, God held my frail spirit in His hands; He must have exhaled the breath of life into my lungs over and over again. In time, I drank that breath deep. Because He lives, I saw purpose lingering in front of me like light filtering through a dust storm. Slowly, I regained my health. The only reason I have for finding life worth living is “Because He Lives”.

We live in a fallen world. Christians are full aware of the of spirit of anti-Christ in their own age. (1 John 4:3) Even the apostle John identified it in the fledgling years of the early church. But, we also live in a redeemed world. For those who believe in Christ’s substitutionary payment on the cross, there is reason to bring new life into the world. Indeed, it is God’s great glory to push new generations through human oneness into the world of His creation – The world, so loved by God that He sent His one and only Son that everyone who believes may have eternal life through Jesus Christ. (John 3:16)

I remember a small plaque that perched on the shelves of my parents’ headboard when I was young. It read:

“A baby is God’s opinion that the world should go on. ~ Anonymous”

Bill and Gloria Gaither grasped that truth and memorialized it in song. The sweet melody etched itself into my mother’s heart one morning in church as she agonized fearfully about the future of her children. And then, that same truth preserved my life when I too wondered at the purpose for living in a hurtful, difficult world. The truth remains, “Because He Lives”.

God sent His son, they called Him, Jesus;

He came to love, heal and forgive;
He lived and died to buy my pardon,
An empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives!

Chorus
Because He lives, I can face tomorrow,
Because He lives, all fear is gone;
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living,
Just because He lives!

How sweet to hold a newborn baby,
And feel the pride and joy he gives;
But greater still the calm assurance:
This child can face uncertain days because He Lives!

Chorus

And then one day, I’ll cross the river,
I’ll fight life’s final war with pain;
And then, as death gives way to vict’ry,
I’ll see the lights of glory and I’ll know He lives!

Chorus

The Long-term Effects of Evangelism

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My husband grew up in Guatemala. He’s not verbose, but I love to hear my mother-in-law tell stories about his younger years.

When he was less than ten years old, he got see monkeys swinging from tree branches. He climbed barefoot up coconut trees and tossed the plump, hairy fruits to the ground. Then squeezing one between his feet, he learned to crack it open and suck out the refreshing milk.

It’s funny how our minds work. Quickly, my thoughts travel from her story to find similarities between it and Christ’s sacrifice for the salvation of man.

Isaiah 53:5 says, “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.”

Jesus body was broken for us (Luke 22:19), just like that coconut. His death, the breaking of His body purchased new life for those who believe in Him. Believers take communion, eat the bread representing His body and drink the wine depicting His blood, and remember His death and resurrection. We receive life and nourishment through Him.

My husband’s family lived in Guatemala for the purpose of evangelism. His dad, a doctor, spent long hours caring for the physically sick. He delivered babies, treated parasites, closed wounds, cleaned infections, pulled teeth and more. My mother-in-law taught the children and ministered to village women through compassion and companionship.

These stories and their related truths came flooding back to me when I read this story from a distributor of The Pocket Testament League’s gospels.

“We recently returned from Guatemala where we used the Spanish version of the Gospel of John to spread the Gospel there. I believe our team distributed nearly 200. We were able to witness to many people using these as well as secure some eternities. It was awesome!”

Sharing the Gospel, evangelism, is so much more than categorical mission work. It’s more than visiting a strange land or learning a new language. It’s more than preaching. It’s even more than providing medical care and basic necessities. Sharing Jesus creates sisters and brothers; it demolishes cultural lines and physical differences.

Today, my husband’s family stays in touch with many of the people they served in Guatemala as well as some of the missionaries they served alongside. They made

life-time friends, and more than that, eternal friends.

Sometimes, a missionary or evangelist never gets to see the fruits of their labor. Also, many times, like my husband’s family, they have to move on and leave behind those they led to Jesus. But that’s what I love about Jesus: Everything He does is perfect and eternal.

The relationship that began with a Gospel from The Pocket Testament League, or the friendship that began over a shared, delicious coconut, or one that started when a doctor treated a broken arm – these relationships are eternal. They take the living water that Jesus gave and offer it to others, refreshing them too.

The love that Jesus showed to us is irresistible. We must, as believers, live intentionally to share that love with others, both practically and verbally. The reward is limitless. First, we receive the privilege of obedience to God.

“He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” Mark 16:15

Second, sharing the Gospel creates deep, satisfying, lasting friendships, those who can be counted upon to pray for us, encourage us and hold us accountable. The apostle Paul said of Timothy, a young man whom he very likely led to Christ:

“But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, that I also may be encouraged when I know your state. For I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus. But you know his proven character, that as a son with his father he served with me in the gospel.” Phil. 2:19-22

Lastly, the more that we speak of Jesus, the closer we draw to Him and the more intimately we know Him and He will make our joy complete. (John 16:24)

Please visit The Pocket Testament League for resources to help you boldly share your faith.

Missing Peace, Chapter 15: “Failure to Drive”

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Three months at Remuda set me behind the power curve of normal teenage life. Add to the list of my insufficiencies the fact that I celebrated my 16th birthday in a hospital and now I was two months late taking my driver’s test.

Dad had instated a rule long before any of his girls turned 16: No one gets her driver’s license until she learns to drive a standard transmission vehicle.

Months before, in November, I had mastered the clutch, taken driver’s ed and passed the test with flying colors. Dad remained true to his promise and drove me to take the written and practical tests the first weekend after I got home.

“Are you ready?” he asked as we shut the door from the house to the garage.

“I hope so,” I replied. “But I’m happy to let you back out of the garage anyway.” I grinned sheepishly.

My only pre-license driving disaster occurred as I tried to back the truck out of the storage shed. The passenger mirror caught on the garage door frame, bending it backward and leaving a long scar in the paint. The kicker was that Dad had just sold the vehicle and the new owners were on their way to pick it up.

“My pleasure.”

Dad put the white Honda Civic, the truck’s replacement, in gear and released the emergency brake. He backed out, then climbed out into the sunshine to trade me seats. I settled into the driver’s seat and took a deep breath. I don’t think I exhaled, feeling the tension inside me mount like an overfilled balloon.

Our driveway was almost a quarter mile long, gravel, framed by end-to-end railroad ties.  A few years earlier, I had helped Daddy lay all those railroad ties. He was a big do-it-yourselfer. His determination and ingenuity employed my sisters and me quite a bit, and served us well.

It was another mile or so down the main dirt road before we came to the first turn onto pavement. Highway 86 was the artery of my family’s social life. It connected our small town of Perry to Stillwater where we went to church, shopped at the nearest Wal-Mart, and where I attended Trinity Christian School.

I pulled into the parking lot at the testing location. It was near the airport and my friend Amy’s house, so I felt comfortable having been there dozens of times before. I parked in front of the nondescript brick building and followed Dad, ducking under his arm as he held the door. Within seconds, I was seated at an old fashioned school desk facing the first test I had seen in months.

“That was easy!” I wiped my sweaty hands on my shorts as soon as I finished. “How long do you think we’ll have to wait to take the driving part?”

“Let’s go, young lady.”

I turned to see a hefty, brusque woman already glaring at me impatiently. She had ridiculously long, artificial nails painted dark blue. A strand of gray, messy hair was caught between her face and glasses.

I tried to be cheery, “Hi.” Wordlessly, she handed me the keys, “Thanks.”

I backed out of the parking lot, drove through Amy’s neighborhood and parallel parked on the side of the road between two trash cans. The woman never said a word, but made a few indecipherable notations on a legal pad. I focused on the road and tried not to look over at her scratchings.

Finally, she pointed in the direction of the testing facility. Relief flooded me. I was almost done. One hundred yards from the entrance, a tiny hill, really a bump, was the only thing between me and my last left turn.

As my front tires crested the bump, I saw a pickup truck coming toward us. Quick calculations ran through my head, The speed limit is only 30 mph, plenty of time. Deftly, I turned the wheel left and coasted into a parking space.

Dad wasn’t waiting outside. He’d found the most recent copy of AOPA (Associate of Private Aviators) among the sparse reading material left for bored parents in the waiting room. Nervously, I unbuckled and stepped from the car.

“Nice job.” The woman still couldn’t smile. “You maintained the correct speed limit and parallel parked beautifully.”

My hopeful smile began to stretch into a sloppy, deliriously happy grin.

“However, you should have waited for that truck to pass before you turned into the testing facility. I’m going to recommend you come back in two weeks and take the test again.”

My heart crashed through my feet and dissolved on the pavement between me and this terribly mean woman. Humiliated, I accepted the piece of paper where she had written her suggestions. Through my swelling tears of disappointment, I saw a paper on which she had scrawled a big, fat “F” across my best efforts.

I hated to go inside the building. I knew Dad would read my face before I had a chance to explain. Fortunately, he noticed us talking and came outside.

“Mr. Blades, your daughter did very well except for one mistake. As I told her, I am going to ask her to come back and test again in two weeks.” With that, she shuffled inside. I noticed the large sweat stain on the back of her shirt as she left. It disgusted me.

Daddy was kind enough to accept the keys and drive home in silence. How I hated to go home and explain to the rest of the family that I had failed.

Missing Peace, Chapter 14: Home Coming

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I failed to gain the prescribed weight. The penalty: Extension.

“Abby, it’s for your own good,” Keri had tried to console me when we hung up with my parents. “And it’s only thirty days. You’ve already been here twice that long. It will go quickly.”

“You’ve said that a million times about a million things,” I stormed at her. “And it’s always when you are telling me something I don’t want to hear. My parents don’t want me to come home and you know it.”

“That’s not true. In fact, it’s expensive for you to continue to stay at Remuda. They’re doing this because they love you.

“The chances of you relapsing, of never achieving a healthy weight are extremely high if you leave now. It would be twice as hard to eat 3500 calories a day at home in your normal environment. By waiting a little longer and sending you home at a maintenance weight, I can be more sure that you will work your aftercare program. By the way, let’s talk about that.”

Keri and I mapped out a thorough aftercare program. I interviewed half a dozen therapists over the phone. Finally, I settled on Hoyt Morris, an eating disorder specialist in Edmond, Oklahoma. He also led a support group and worked with a reputable dietician.

I tied up a lot of loose ends in those extra 30 days. On May 7th, I boarded a plane bound for Oklahoma, still one pound shy of my goal.

“I can do it, I promise!” I had begged and bargained.

Against his better judgment, willingly ignoring all my past failed promises, Dad agreed that I should come home. The whole family welomed me at the airport.

“Welcome home, Abby!” Rachelle shouted waving a sign decorated in pink and green crayon.

I spotted Jennifer first as I came down the ramp. Even though summer had yet to char the earth with Oklahoma’s annual drought, her skin was already deeply bronzed from hours of outdoor play. Dad was next to her, hard to miss at his height and wearing a black and orange Ditch Witch ball cap.

The generous, happy reception drew the attention of everyone near our gate. Anorexic thoughts flickered in the back of my mind.

Are they doing this all for show? Do I look bloated? I wonder what Mom’s planning for dinner, will it fit my exchanges?

I banished the intrusive thoughts. Canned, one-liners of truth, my new tools of recovery, were all I had to fight back.

I am loved by God and my family. 

I’m beautiful just the way I am. 

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

The last one I had known forever. It was only truth I actually believed. The road ahead was long, my ambition to stay well, still shaky.

But I knew that Christ was in me. I knew that He was going to have to do this because I still wasn’t sure I wanted to.